Panama is a small country on the Central American isthmus where 2 million tourists visit annually and which an outsize number of merchant ships call home to avoid more stringent marine and labor regulations; where the global elite go to burrow away their money; and where the United States might invade if the president doesn’t like the military dictatorship in power. And according to a new legal filing in Manhattan federal court, Panama is another country where President Trump has tax problems. In the filing, a former business partner, Orestes Fintiklis, alleges that the Trump Organization evaded taxes on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City.
The filing alleges that the Trump Organization “used its control over the hotel bank accounts to make payments to itself and affiliates without withholding the 12.5 percent tax on its management fees, thus intentionally evading taxes.” According to ProPublica:
The Trump entities were allegedly supposed to withhold those [management] fees in advance and pay them to the government regardless of whether the property was profitable or not. Instead, the Trump companies simply kept the money, the suit claims, “thus intentionally evading taxes.” That and other financial irregularities exposed Fintiklis and the companies he represents “to millions of dollars in liability,” according to the suit, which also claims Trump companies sought to cover up their actions. The filing does not say whether a tax penalty has been levied by Panamanian authorities.
The president’s financial-disclosure statements show that the Trump Organization received hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in management fees related to the property. In addition to the allegation, Fintiklis is seeking around $35 million in damages. Though the Trump Organization called Fintiklis’s claims “completely false,” the legal filings do bring unwanted attention to the president’s taxes, as congressional and state lawmakers pursue multiple avenues to obtain Trump’s IRS filings of the past six years.
Fintiklis’s legal filing is the first accusation of tax evasion regarding the Trump International Hotel and Tower, though the parties have been in a public spat over the building, the tallest in Panama, for two years. Shortly after Fintiklis bought a majority of the hotel’s units in 2017, he sued the Trump Organization for mismanagement. In 2018, after the Panamanian courts ruled in Fintiklis’s favor, the Trump letters were pried off the hotel’s sign and driven away in a Hyundai hatchback. Fintiklis, a Cypriot national, then went up to the baby grand piano in the lobby and played “Accordeon,” a Greek anti-fascist song. He must not have known “For the Love of Money.”